Amazon Kindle - Remote Content Removal

Remote Content Removal

On July 17, 2009, Amazon.com withdrew certain Kindle titles, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, from sale, refunded the cost to those who had purchased them, and remotely deleted these titles from purchasers' devices after discovering that the publisher lacked rights to publish the titles in question. Notes and annotations for the books made by users on their devices were left in a separate file, but "rendered useless" without the content they were directly linked to. The move prompted outcry and comparisons to Nineteen Eighty-Four itself. In the novel, books, magazines and newspapers in public archives that contradict the ruling party are either edited long after being published or destroyed outright; the removed materials go "down the memory hole", the nickname for an incinerator chute. Customers and commentators noted the resemblance to the censorship in the novel, and described Amazon's action in Orwellian terms. Some critics also argued that the deletion violated the Kindle's Terms of Service, which states in part:

"Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use."

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener stated that the company is "... changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances." On July 23, 2009, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted an apology about the company's handling of the matter on Amazon's official Kindle forum. Bezos said the action was "stupid", and that the executives at Amazon "deserve the criticism received."

On July 30, 2009, Justin Gawronski, a Michigan high school senior, and Antoine Bruguier, a California engineer, filed suit against Amazon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. Gawronski argued that Amazon had violated its terms of service by remotely deleting the copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four he had purchased, in the process preventing him from accessing annotations he had written. Bruguier also had his copy deleted without his consent, and found Amazon practiced "deceit" in an email exchange. The complaint, which requested class-action status, asked for both monetary and injunctive relief. The case was settled on September 25, 2009, with Amazon agreeing to pay $150,000 divided between the two plaintiffs, on the understanding that the law firm representing them, Kamber Edelson LLC, "...will donate its portion of that fee to a charitable organization...". The settlement also saw Amazon guaranteeing wider rights to Kindle owners over its eBooks:

For copies of Works purchased pursuant to TOS granting "the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy" of each purchased Work and to "view, use and display an unlimited number of times, solely on the . . . and solely for personal, non-commercial use", Amazon will not remotely delete or modify such Works from Devices purchased and being used in the United States unless (a) the user consents to such deletion or modification; (b) the user requests a refund for the Work or otherwise fails to pay for the Work (e.g., if a credit or debit card issuer declines to remit payment); (c) a judicial or regulatory order requires such deletion or modification; or (d) deletion or modification is reasonably necessary to protect the consumer or the operation of a Device or network through which the Device communicates (e.g., to remove harmful code embedded within a copy of a Work downloaded to a Device).

On September 4, 2009, Amazon offered affected users a restoration of the deleted ebooks, an Amazon gift certificate, or a check for the amount of $30.

In December 2010, three eBooks by author Selena Kitt were removed due to violations of Amazon's publishing guidelines. For what Amazon describes as "a brief period of time," the books were unavailable for redownload by users who had already purchased them. This ability was restored after it was brought to Amazon's attention; however, no remote deletion took place.

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